Parenting, it ain’t for the light hearted

Going into parenting, I was a nervous wreck.  I got pregnant young, almost too young to be a parent.  I was an adult, but only just barely.  Looking at my 17-year-old son today, I cannot imagine him becoming a parent in a couple years, like his father and I did.  I was a wreck somewhat because of our ages, but mostly because I had no idea what the hell I was doing.  I was going to be responsible for another life.  How was that going to work?  I still could hardly separate colors successfully and not turn white underwear pink.

I was given this awesome book, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’.  I read it cover to cover 3 times before I ever laid eyes on the kid growing in my stomach.  Then, when he came I read ‘What to Expect the First Year’.  Again, I read it cover to cover countless times.  I was ready.  I was prepared.  Turns out there was no way I could turn him pink during bath time (well, except that one time with the bath paint, but let’s not go there).  We were good.

I went blithely through colic and the toddler stage to preschool and then had a couple more kids along the way.  I was becoming a pro at this.  I was raising three kids and no one turned pink again.  We taught them ‘stranger danger’, how to escape during a fire, where to go if they got lost, code words for people claiming to be sent by us, and all the likes of parenting 101.  Parenting magazines were a God send during the younger years and we thrived as a family.  We read advice columns, we exchanged ideas between our friends, and we relied on the past experiences our parents had and combined them all for super parenting, like a super power.

All those years, all those books and not one time did anyone mention what could really hurt your kid.  Adolescence and hormones.  I didn’t read anywhere about what to do if your child experimented with cutting.  I didn’t get any advice about what to do when your child withdrew and started listening to questionable music and wanting to dress in all black.  Nowhere in those books did I read what to do when your sweet children are replaced by kids full of eye rolls, blank stares, deadly stares, exaggerated sighs, unanswered questions, phones glued to hands, and mood swings that would make even the scariest roller coaster jealous.

Cellphone etiquette wasn’t listed in those books, either.  Sure, we made rules as we went, but this isn’t something that was an issue during our upbringing so we were just winging it.  There was no parenting book that told you exactly how to handle apps and social media and sexting.  There’s no ‘What to Expect’ about those things.  We try to be reasonable parents, trusting parents.  We take lessons friends have learned and parents have learned and we try to apply them as best we can.  There are all types of parents out there.  I know parents that are too lax, I know parents that over-parent, I know parents that try to be somewhere in between, and I know parents that seem to have all the answers and they just seem to do it right.  However, then I learned those parents, the ones who appear to have it all together and have parenting as their super power are just as scared and are going through just as much as the rest of us.

Maybe there’s no ‘What to Expect’ book out there for adolescence because no one really knows what to expect.  No one has mastered it well enough to write it all down.  There’s no way someone can prepare for your child to admit they’ve been a “cutter”, there’s no way to prepare for your child to make a decision to share intimate images of themselves to someone on the internet, and there’s no way to have all the right words and all the right actions for things you never thought could or would happen.  I’ve learned that as a mom I just have to admit when I don’t know what the hell to do and then I have to rally with other moms who are experiencing the same thing.

In my advice and edition of ‘What to Expect’ during adolescence, I will say this – expect everything and befriend the parents of your children’s friends.  They are your only hope to getting out of this alive….well, them and a nice big bottle glass of wine.

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By the wayside

There are so many positive attributes that have come from the technological advances over time.  Computers have paved the way for personal growth instead of just being a big box in an office from which to run reports.  Social media has proven to be a means for people to unite from all over the world who would not normally do so.  It’s been a bridge that has connected people who would have lost contact for years, maybe even lifetimes.  Smart phones have made it easier to keep in contact, keep busy, organize life, and become more productive when used properly.  All these lovely creations have brought so much more depth to people’s lives by bringing others easily within reach – technically.

However, like all positives there’s a negative somewhere.  It’s like my mom used to say, there is no hate without love and vice versa.  It’s the classic yin-yang of technology.  Because we’ve become so reliable on technology a lot of other areas of our lives have either changed or diminished altogether.

Tradition as we knew it just twenty years ago has all but gone by the wayside.  Ask the younger generations how many Christmas cards they receive, and of those how many are from their generation.  How many birthday invitations come in the mail for children?  Who, other than the ones older than generation X, sends birthday cards?  These simple traditions have been replaced by evites, texts, Facebook messages, posts, and emails.  The only letters I have hand-written and mailed in the last few years have been to my grandmother who is in a convent.  When is the last time you printed a picture to put in a photo album?  Personally, it’s been a couple years for me as I am just as guilty.

Never mind these simple traditions, what about the big ones?  We’ve become a society so busy with our technologically organized lives that we forget to plan for the big events or we’re too busy to do so.  Family reunions happen less and less.  One part of my extended family hasn’t been together for a holiday in years, and I mean years.  My children don’t even know who some of these people are and I grew up with them at every birthday, every holiday, and every family event.  Today, I see their posts via Facebook and pictures via Instagram.

Technology has begun to rob us of what we once held dear.  We may not be so wise of it right now, but it’s there creeping in slowly like the mist of a morning fog.  Don’t let your traditions fall by the wayside, grab them and hold them and then pass them to the next generation like that old creepy doll collection from your great-great somebody or other.  You never know, one day they may be worth something.

This week, we borrow from Nonamedufus and his self-titled blog, “Taught By My Example.”

“I love to spoil them.” and/or “tradition”

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Robin Williams, a legend

I’ve stared at this blinking cursor for a while, I’ve saved and re-saved this draft, and I’ve deleted more than I’ve written.  My heart is heavy and I feel as if I have lost a part of my character, a part of my childhood.  The world lost a legend, a genius.  Robin Williams is a household name.  He was in so many shows, films, and on so many stages that I honestly cannot say there should be an adult alive (and even a child) who does not know his name, who has not laughed at his hand, who hasn’t absorbed some part of his character into their soul.  It is simply impossible.

I have never met Robin Williams, as I daresay most of normal society hasn’t, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t taken with me parts of him from the moments he shared with the world.  Great actors and great writers do that, they let you borrow a little bit of themselves to take with you on your own personal journey.  I cried many tears over the news of his passing.  Tears because he passed, and tears because of how he passed – that he felt so alone and so lost.  My heart breaks for the struggles he went through.

I’ve seen and fallen in love with so much of his work that it’s difficult to pinpoint a favorite.  However, there are a few that have touched me and have stayed with me just a bit more than the others.

My first date with my now husband, 22 years ago, was to see Aladdin.  I was 14 years old and loved Disney movies, not to mention that was the only movie playing my mother would let me attend with a boy.  I remember looking at my husband and thinking to myself, if he can laugh at a big blue genie with me then I’ll have to get to know him better.  In that sense, Robin Williams was there on my first date with my husband and brought us closer with his profound ability to make someone laugh.  Dead Poets Society instilled into me the courage I needed to write, to let myself be me, to go against the status quo.  It truly inspired me in so many deeply personal ways that I cannot name them all.

There is one movie that touched me so much so, I still call upon it to get over bad days.  That movie is What Dreams May Come.  If you’ve read the 100 things about me, then you’ve read that I have an irrational fear of dying.  Not how I will die, but dying itself and the fear of nonexistence – it’s a fear I’ve had as long as I can remember.  What if my faith is wrong?  I ‘what if’ myself into a panic attack that can only be compressed by my anxiety medications and the memory of this movie.  I never read the book because for one, I didn’t know there was one, but for two I didn’t want to ruin the movie.  My husband, knowing this very real fear of mine, introduced this movie to me years ago – back in the VCR days.  I watched it repeatedly and it captivated me.  I can’t say it healed me, but it has made dealing with that fear a great deal easier.  His role in that movie, his dedication, his faith, his love, his determination to make sure his wife wasn’t alone moved me leaps and bounds.

Yes, Robin Williams will always be a household name and his movies will live on in the hearts of millions.  Despite or even because of his illness, he successfully touched us all.

With every season

Sitting on my back deck, hiding from the kids whose water balloons I narrowly escape while coming into the house, I take a deep breath.  I smell neighbors grilling some delicious loveliness and my stomach growls to remind me I have to cook, but not just yet.  I take another deep breath.  It’s refreshing, even calming, the smell of rain that skipped our little neighborhood.  I can see the clouds through the tops of the trees and hear a slight rumble, and I’m thankful to see it from a distance.  I can smell the delightful tea olive trees that are just behind our fence, such a sweet fragrance that reminds me of my grandmother.

I close my eyes and I listen.  I hear neighbors talking, but I’m not paying attention to their words.  I hear dogs playing and conversing in their own right, but they aren’t too loud.  I hear giggles and squeals, and I chuckle and the sounds of water balloons breaking against the concrete.  I listen to the little carpenter bee trying to bore a hole into my porch and think I should take care of him, but I don’t and leave him at his work instead.

I lean my head back against the iron chair and open my eyes.  The blue just overhead is so rich and welcoming.  The white that I see reminds me of cotton balls and childhood.  The trees are so green, so vibrant and alive as they slightly sway in the warm breeze.  I catch sight of two birds dancing overhead, dipping and swirling to their own music.  As I scan the backyard I watch butterflies rushing and flittering through the bushes next to the vivid orange tiger lilies.  I’ve watched the lilies grow and now they finally bloom.  It’s at that point, when I’m so in love with their bloom, I realize they are a reminder that it’s closer to the time when summer will end taking with it the beautiful outdoor familiarity only experienced during its season.

 

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In Dreams

It should probably be stated I don’t ‘do’ poetry.  I love it, but I have never been able to produce it.  I felt daring and decided to step out of my little comfort zone on this one…sorry. ha!

 

 

He walks into the room

And causes electricity to spark

So fierce it will cause my doom

Or shock me to life out of this dark

 

His eyes a stormy blue, his lips so full

He sees through me to my core, I’m so weak

Unable to breathe, I try to play it cool

As he brushes his hand against my cheek

 

He smells of sandalwood and wind

His skin is warm to the touch

In his arms I will easily bend

How can I need him this much?

 

My knees begin to quake

My chest rises, I know what he’s after

From my dream I slowly wake

As I laughed my nervous laughter

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Slowing down

Image courtesy of freeimageslive.com
Image courtesy of freeimageslive.com

 

I confess that when I first saw this picture prompt, I was elated.  I was rushed with feelings from childhood birthday parties.  I was fully prepared to spit out witty reminiscences of happy days of youth spent drawing with sidewalk chalk, balloon tosses, eating strawberry shortcake cupcakes, and visiting Disney World, but I digress.  You see, my 36th birthday is next week.

I’ve heard often during the passing of another year, ‘it beats the alternative’, and indeed it does.  However, this year is one year closer to leaving my mid-thirties.  I’m not ready to leave them just yet, I’m not sure I’ve appreciated them well enough and I know I didn’t get to know them like I had hoped to.  I thought we’d be better friends before we parted.  I feel like we hardly know each other at all.

Oh, how I remember my 20s.  We became close friends, there weren’t these broken years I’ve come to know in my 30s.  My 20s were just my 20s, no early, mid, or late, just them and all their youthful glorious fun.  Hell, it wasn’t until last year that I learned my 30s came with sections.  I felt so ill prepared.  I would have tried to hang onto the early ones a little longer and certainly would have mentally prepared for the mids.

All that’s left are the lates.  At least I know now not to screw that up, too.  Oh, I’ll be bitter for a minute, I’m a woman and that’s what we do – or that’s what I do any way.  After the bitterness I’m going to get to know them, take them out on the town more often, compliment them and tell them they’re pretty.  I might even try to give them some healthier options, slim them up a bit, maybe go on more walks.  The lates and I are going to be besties.  Plenty of movies, laughs, and slow dances, it’s what the lates are made for, I think.  Though, I’m not really sure since I’ve yet to introduce myself, but I will and I hope they will be as grand as their predecessors.

All I know is I hope to slow down a bit and savor them like an old bottle of wine.

 

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From a child’s eye

Images courtesy of freeimages.co.uk
Images courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

I was 12 years old and my brother was graduating from Navy basic training in San Diego, CA.  I remember his going away party like it was yesterday.   This party, though, was one for the books.  We had a 3 floor split level home and one of my dad’s best friends brought a gas station sized American Flag to drape in front of our house. There were so many people, so many laughs, and so many tears.  I don’t really remember the day he left, but I remember the sadness that overtook the party at the end when everyone wished him well.

Fast forward 8 weeks and my parents let me know we were going to be flying to California to watch him graduate and spend a week touring.  California!  This was the summer of 1990, people!  Just after the movie Pretty Woman was released.  You could imagine my excitement to see Rodeo Drive!  Of course, that was before I realized San Diego was not at all near Rodeo Drive.  (My dad, being the awesome man he is, later got us to Beverly Hills and the Hollywood sign for a day any way)

After his graduation and after I melted over the fact that I used the same bathroom in the USO building from the scene in Top Gun where Maverick followed Charlie, my dad wanted to visit Mexico.  Wow!  Mexico? Another country?  This was quickly turning into the best vacation ever.

It wasn’t a long drive, I remember, and we ended up at what reminded me as the toll booths on our highways back in GA.  We go in and Dad gets us to Tijuana, Mexico.  Naturally, I had no way of knowing what to expect.

My dad wanted to go to the shops in the town to barter for items on which he knew he could get great deals.  We ended up going down a small open tunnel that smelled of urine, rotting food, and God only knows what else.  I was scared beyond any of my monster under the bed imaginations I had up until now.  I remember women and men off to the side eyeing us.  Luckily, my father stands 6’4″ so no one really talked to us.  Except this little girl who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old and there she stood with her coffee can looking at us with these huge sad, brown eyes.  My heart broke.  This was the first time I saw real pain and real sorrow.  She was hungry.  She was poor.  After much begging and pleading, I got my dad to give her some money.

The vacation ended up being very wonderful, but there are so many times in my life where I find myself looking back at that little girl in that tunnel, and for an instant my problems seem so small.

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